During the Covid era, stepping out even for a leisurely stroll is not likely to happen soon. And holidays at one’s dream destinations could remain a distant dream.
In such a scenario, domestic travel will be the first to recover and when travellers will be raring to take off, it’ll be the wellnessindustry travel that could lure them in. “In these times, what tops the list are good health and immunity — things that, when clubbed with scenic environs, make for a perfect substitute for even stunning international destinations,” says Manoj Khetan, co-founder of Naad Retreat that nestles in a sprawling green belt near Sonipat.
An ‘escape experience’ in serene surroundings tackling issues of health is what wellness tourism has been touted to be all about. Although health retreats have been around for decades, they were looked at — in the pre-Covid days — as getaways mostly for those with health problems. But now, with leisure tourism options struck off their travel list, people are looking at health retreats as the answer for a relaxed holiday.
“People seem to accept that issues like social distancing, which people worry about even in the poshest of hotels can be done away with here,” asserts Rucha Sukhramani of the Shreyas Retreat in Karnataka that is all set to reopen in the coming week with all dos mandatory for a safe environment well in place. And one of the reasons for this is that the 16-year-old, 25acre centre has always believed in social distancing. “We have just 12 cottages that stand far apart from each other and hence are much in line with Covid-related guidelines,” says Sukhramani, one of the founding members of Shreyas. Geared up with a staff that believes in the benefits of yoga, “guests see us not just as a very healthy lot but also as people who inspire trust from the moment they walk in,” she smiles.
Indeed, after being confined to their homes 24X7 for weeks at a stretch, many travellers are looking to seek refuge in an outdoorsy space. “With the lockdown slowly being eased, they’ll be looking to seek refuge amidst nature that has a calming effect,” says Khetan whose staff stayed on at Naad through the lockdown “further ensuring the place remained Corona-free”. And now, with the three-acre property having begun their operation, that is the kind of security and sanitisation it will be offering to guests. With peace of mind, immunity and flexibility being the buzzwords, Naad’s guests appreciate its healthrelated schedule that include simple practices like oil mouth-wash, gargles and early sleep time that lets the body self-heal.
Adding to the experience is not just the Turkish hamam, Swedish and Balinese massages and saltcave treatments but also the sanitised ‘resort uniform’ that guests are required to wear during their stay here. Khetan mentions how a guest got his parents here saying, ‘a health holiday in such environs is far better for them rather than one in London or Paris’.”
Agrees Dr Govinda Kumar Trivedi, CMO at Balaji Nirogdham — that opened for stay-in patients from June 15 — as he says, “People have come to realise that it’s not enough to visit a place like you do on a holiday but also to gain something out of it.” But wellness holidays, adds Trivedi, are not just about spas and massages in a sanitised environment but a combination of interesting programmes. He smiles talking about Bharatnatyam yoga, kathak yoga and Zumba yoga that are big hits with guests “as also are our bhajan sandhyas”. Happy that the onset of Covid-19 has let people become conscious about their health and well-being, he says, “However healthy we may be otherwise, we need to guard ourselves against this virus.” That’s why Trivedi and his team insist on offering “a holistic experience” that lets guests move onto the path of physical and spiritual health.
Incidentally, as with most retreats, direct walk-in arrivals are no longer acceptable. Only online admissions are allowed and these are done after a complete screening of details about the guests’ medical, family and travel histories. What’s more,one therapist to one guest is the new norm and there too, besides PPE kits, curtains, etc., only minimum interaction will be allowed between the two. This is being done to lower any risk of virus transmission. “The two can communicate before and after the treatment sessions over the phone,” adds Trivedi.
Envisaging a spurt in wellness tourism, Rejith Daniel, general manager of the Viveda Wellness Village that lies close to Nashik says, “People have come to realise that health is of utmost importance.” Viveda opened in the first week of July with special offers and programmes connected with Naturopathy, Ayurveda, Yoga, homeopathy and spa treatments “it offers what all ‘smart tourists’ want in these times,” smiles Daniel. With just about 16 cottages on their premises that give you a lot of me-time, Viveda’s special facilities including aqua yoga and holistic experiences all promise a Covid-free stay. With Corona having a deep psychological impact on the people’s psyche, wellness tourism is sure to be top priority, feels KR Raghunath of the Jindal Naturecure Institute. “Preventive care has become the need of the hour. And everyone seems to be yearning for a robust immune system that can fight infectious diseases better and prevent the onset of non-communicable diseases that are currently responsible for 61 per cent of the deaths in India,” adds the senior chairman of the vast 42-year-old, 120-acre institute in Bengaluru. “What gives me joy is that millennials who are already health-conscious will be even more so after the pandemic — arming themselves with not just with indigenous systems of treatment but also lifestyle strategies to promote the body’s self-healing powers,” he adds.